I am not a professional science communicator. I joined the group because I was running Science Issues Cafe as an enthusiastic amateur. Sadly I had to stop running it, but who knows, maybe one day I can revive it.
My take on the conference comes from my experience in my own professional field. I am dissatisfied with my annual conference because invariably the keynote speakers are from the US (usually two of them) with a minor speaker from Australia. I acknowledge that quite often the Americans are five years ahead of us. Less so now because of the proliferation of online courses and webinars that are closing the gap. Nevertheless, on returning to work after a five years out of the workforce for health reasons, I had to spend a couple of thousand dollars on new books and DVDs to bring myself up to speed with the latest developments.
I attended a conference in which the US speaker said "i don't know what the situation is in Australia, but here are the US figures." Am I wrong to find this insulting and arrogant? If you are going to present, at least do your homework and find out whether the situation in this field is the same or different. I went up to the presenter during interval and said "you may be interested to learn what the situation is here in Australia. The figures are given in my book (on the subject) of which I gave her a complimentary copy. She looked at me as if I was from another planet. No thanks, no acknowledgement, no interest. For some overseas presenter, we are just "audience fodder" on the speaker circuit.
But here's the thing - even the Australian presenters at my professional conference are not professionals in my field, but a related field that is perceived to be of higher status. My colleagues have qualifications and expertise, but in the related field they get to call themselves "doctor". This in my view does not give them greater expertise in my field. They have expertise in their specialty, not in mine. A comparable situation would be for ASC to invite two US experts (who may well have an outstanding contribution to make, but let's not overlook local people) and one Australian scientist. The scientist might well be eminent and worth coming to listen to, but he or she is a scientist, not a professional science communicator, so the skill set is different. "Cultural cringe" is such a cliche, but what else can explain this? Please consider the wealth of talent amongst Australian science communicators, who really understand the challenges faced by Australian science communicators.
By all means have sessions in which Australian scientists can talk about the communication issue from the perspective of a researcher (or whatever). And also, by all means, if there are overseas science communicators with new ideas, yes let's hear them. But not to the exclusion of our own people.
I also support the notion of giving some airtime to expert women in the STEM field.
Melbourne researchers re-write
Big Bang Theory
"I guess a headline such as “Melbourne Researchers have a neat idea that might have observational consequences that may reveal the nature of the space and time, and could potentially point us in the right kind of direction in understanding a quantised picture of gravity and hence reveal what really happened at the very start of our universe” just doesn’t have the same ring about it." Geraint Lewis